Chancellor announces pre-Budget statement

Gordon Brown pledged to support families and ensure every child
has the best start in life in his pre-budget statement this week,
writes Clare Jerrom

The chancellor argued that families were the “bedrock of
society” as he outlined the government’s childcare
strategy during his report.

He pledged an extra £600 million for children and childcare
by 2007-8 and explained that the 600 sure start children’s
centres would be extended to 3,500 in England by 2010.

By early next year, children will be given £250 and poorer
children will be given £500 as part of the Child Trust Fund.
But the chancellor announced that the government would consult on
extending the Child Trust Fund so that at the age of seven years
old, children would receive a further payment of £250, or
£500 for poorer children.

Parents will also be helped to spend more time with their
children.Brown revealed that £285 million would be spent
extending paid maternity leave from six months today to nine months
from April 2007. The government would also have a year’s paid
maternity leave as a future goal.

Employers will also be able to offer employees £50 extra a
week for childcare free of tax or national insurance. The childcare
tax credit will also be extended for those on lower and middle

Brown highlighted that two million families have no bank account
which makes it more difficult for them to access employment. He
announced £120 million to tackle this financial exclusion and
to reduce by half the number of families without bank accounts.

The chancellor promised to extend the ‘in work’
credit to ensure 250,000 lone parents would be offered £40 a
week or £2,000 a year as a first year back to work bonus. The
Pathways to Work scheme for incapacity benefit claimants returning
to work will also be extended to cover a third of the country.

An extra £125 million worth of resources were revealed by
Brown for local authorities in England to ensure council tax rises
will be substantially lower than the rise last year of 5.9 per

He revealed that £512 million would be re-allocated to
councils from other departments and a further £333 million
would be made available for councils by reducing ring-fencing and
other obligations.

Brown’s speech from

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